Back to Jo'burg but first crossing the Zambezi River

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June 16th 2019
Published: June 18th 2019
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We awoke earlier as usual although we would have struggling to make a morning game drive had it been on our agenda for the day as it was just after 5.30am.It is going to take some time before we get back to waking later although it isn’t really going to be necessary to get too much change to our timing as we are both back to work the day after we get back to Tauranga.

We took the luxury of staying in bed and listening to the afternoon talk back on Newstalk ZB(well you do have to keep up with a bit of news)

We caught up with the Aussies at breakfast who had done the boat cruise yesterday while we went on the game drive. They were heading for Victoria Falls this morning while we need to get back to Livingstone in Zambia for our flight to Jo’burg.

We are still scratching our heads as to why we chose Livingstone to enter and depart this area of 4 countries all with connected borders in a small piece of Africa but it must have been something to do with the price of the airfares in relation to landing at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe or Kasene, Botswana.

However by choosing Livingstone it has given us the rather unique experiences of crossing chaotic borders several times including the one coming up this morning which will involve the mighty Zambezi River ! How, may you ask will we get across one of the world’s most famous rivers? More shortly.

Wild Horizons who were charged with getting us around this part of Africa when land travel was necessary have an agent in Botswana and he was duly at the hotel lobby at 9.30am to pick us up and transport us to the edge of the Zambezi River at a town called 3 countries Kazungula which as we found out is actually located in 3 countries !

We were off in a land cruiser that is normally used for game drives so although the breeze was whizzing by the open sides at least the sun was well up and it wasn’t too cool.

It was just 15 minutes along the main road to the town where we turned off and headed down towards the river. What was obvious in several places adjacent to the road to the river was the large amount of road construction going on to finished in time for the opening of a combined pedestrian/rail/road bridge that already been under construction for a few years and won’t be finished for another couple of years.

The sight of queued large truck and trailers lined up on the side of the road told us the Zambian border/immigration wasn’t far away. Each of these border crossings have been the same, a shamble of waiting trucks with loads of all shapes and sizes, a few private vehicles, taxi drivers and lots of people on foot, some of whom were actually making a border crossing while others ….well we just weren’t sure exactly what they were doing there.

As with all the crossings we have done so far it was very seamless and with no hassles from people or officials such as immigration or customs people. We had heard and read so many adverse stories about crossing borders in Africa where bribes paid were often the only way travellers could get to where they wanted to go. None of this had happened to us although we do put that down partly to being escorted by a local company when making the crossings and we feel this has possibly given us some protection.

Our driver had told us what would happen once we cleared customs/immigration from Botswana. He took us onto the edge of the Zambezi River from where we could clearly see the Zambia side a few hundred metres away.

Trucks are transported across the river on a large barge after their load has been weighed. People go across on a small aluminium boat and the one we were destined for could carry about a dozen people and their suitcases etc.This should be interested as there don’t appear to be any life jackets visible and there were no usual safety instructions by the person in charge.

Never mind that I can’t swim and that the river is flowing at a steady current. We did check with the captain if there were crocodiles and the answer with a huge African smile and laugh was…….no !We are not sure whether to believe him and we did look closely at the reeds growing on the bank in case a croc was eyeing our very small vessel up but nobody appeared to be looking at us.

Within a couple of minutes, or so it seemed, we were on the other side of the Zambezi with the captain giving the boat a little rev to run us up onto the sloping concrete and we were in Zambia.

The view of the bridge under construction was amazing and when it is completed it will make transport across the Zambezi so much easier. One thing will be lost though and that is where else in the world do you make a border crossing like this one? A very memorable experience that will be up there with the animal sightings.

The Wild Horizons man named Moses was there to help us ashore and kept us focused on by passing the hawkers who pounced as soon as we got off the boat to get to his waiting Toyota Corona.

He said he would come and help me through immigration and customs while Gretchen remained in the car. I would bring the two passports and complete the paperwork and pay USD100 for our couple of hours stay in Zambia before the flight left for Jo’burg. The visa we got when we arrived to cover Zambia and Zimbabwe would have still covered us if we had not stayed a night or more in Botswana but as we did stay 3 nights we had to fork out more money. We hadn’t had to pay anything to enter Botswana so we felt we were still on the right side of the lower airfare into and out of Livingstone even after the USD100 paid.

Moses was a very chatty chap and told us about the near 1km bridge which is being built by the Korean company Daewoo with money from the African Development Bank. It has had to be designed on a curve so it doesn’t clash with the Zimbabwe or Namibian borders which must be somewhere in the middle of the river. We assume that those countries are not part of the Bank providing the finance although we are not sure on this.

In the hour it took to drive to Livingstone there wasn’t much about himself and his family that he didn’t tell us about including that he had found himself a plot of tribal land and built a two room house but had no electricity and his water source was a kilometre away. He sounded genuine and we both felt a bit sorry for him and when he dropped us off at the airport Gretchen upped the tip to the most we have paid to anyone so far to help him get his wife and children back to living with him. Also he did drive very safely !

The flight back to Jo’burg was uneventful and with another female in the co pilot seat she put us down very gently at the very expansive Jo’burg airport.

Our man from Safari Club was there with his sign to pick us up(we love this service)and he whisked us back on a very quiet highway(it is Sunday)to the little oasis of the Safari Club.

We had a long chat with Al,the owner who has lived in South Africa for over 50 years after being born in Scotland, about the state of South African financial affairs where the economy went backwards in the last quarter by 3.4% and is going to need something special to stimulate it for the country not to slide into a more difficult position than it is now.

At dinner we shared stories with a couple from Florida who like us were coming to the end of their trek around several African countries and a young Belgian couple who were just starting out.

We get another lie in as we don’t have to be at the airport too early to start the journey home to Tauranga via Singapore.

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